St. Clement— Bishop of Rome and Martyr
Updated: Jan 4, 2022
St. Clement is considered the first Apostolic Father of the Church and was known as Pope Clement I from 88 to 97 AD. He was the third successor of and consecrated by St. Peter the Apostle. In his letter to the church at Corinth affirming the apostolic authority of the clergy, Clement responds to a dispute in which some presbyters of that church had been deposed by a group of Christians who behaved badly, so he reminded them of the importance of Christian unity and love. While his letter is pseudepigraphical (noncanonical), it is still used to support the doctrine of Apostolic succession practised by liturgical but not other Protestant churches.
In his sole extant writing (c. 96 AD) in a Latin translation that almost achieved canonical status, he stresses that one of the functions of the higher class of clergy was “offering the gifts”. We should be obedient unto God, rather than follow those who in arrogance and unruliness have set themselves up as leaders in abominable jealousy. . . . For Christ is with them that are lowly of mind, not with them that exalt themselves over the flock. (1 Clement 14:1; 16:1).
Clement was born about 35 CE and held office from 88 to 99. He was banished from Rome and died in Chersonesus, Crimea (101 CE), where he worked in a stone quarry and cultivated a ministry among the prisoners. Finding upon his arrival that other prisoners were suffering from a lack of water, he knelt in prayer, then looked up and saw a lamb on a hill. When he went to the lamb, he struck the ground with his pickaxe, releasing a gushing stream of clear water. This miracle resulted in the conversion of many pagans and fellow prisoners to Christianity. As punishment for his miracle, he was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown from a boat into the Black Sea.
Nonetheless, he remains the patron saint of many Christian churches and mariners. November 23 is the customary celebratory date. The Anchor Cross or the Mariner’s Cross is also referred to as the St. Clement’s Cross, referring to the way he died. In our church we have maintained use of the anchor in its original form since 1891. The St. Clement’s Cross appears in a stained glass window in the Sacristy and more recently in its streamlined form on our newsletter, renamed The Anchor by Val Allen in September 2013. When you have the opportunity to be in the sanctuary, look at the ceiling--it resembles the hull of a boat. The mariner theme is reinforced, and we are shrouded in its symbolism.
St. Clement’s contemporary prayer at the conclusion of his letter easily spans the centuries to become a fitting prayer for Christians today:
May God, who seeth all things, and who is the Ruler of all spirits and the Lord of all flesh—who chose our Lord Jesus Christ and us through Him to be a peculiar people—grant to every soul that calleth upon His glorious Name, faith, fear, peace, patience, long-suffering, self-control, purity, and sobriety, to the wellpleasing of His Name, through our High Priest and Protector, Jesus Christ, by whom be to Him glory, and majesty, and power, and honor, both now and forevermore. Amen.
For the full Anchor, click here.